"You never forget ’El Camino’!"
Type 2 diabetic Gerhard Uphoff made it to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela
After 38 days and 774 kilometers on the Way of St. James Gerhard Uphoff, who has type 2 diabetes, arrived in Santiago de Compostela.
Leverkusen – Endless ascents, scree-covered paths where it’s almost impossible to gain a foothold, and temperatures close to freezing – none of the challenges on the Way of St. James was difficult enough to stop Gerhard Uphoff who hails from Berlin, Germany. On June 13, 2007, Uphoff, who has type 2 diabetes, reached his destination: the shrine of the holy apostle in Santiago de Compostela. Thirty-eight days and a distance of 774 kilometers lay behind him. He walked from the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the south of France across the north of Spain to reach the pilgrims’ destination. Bayer HealthCare sponsored Uphoff’s project. The company donated EUR 5 to the German Diabetes Foundation for every kilometer that Uphoff covered. This means that he has “collected” some EUR 4,000 for a good cause.
“The pilgrims’ way is by no means easy,” says Gerhard Uphoff with hindsight. The journey pushed him to his physical limits. Unlike many of his traveling companions, Uphoff, aged 60, had more to contend with than blistered feet, sore muscles, and groaning joints – at the start of his walk his blood glucose levels were destabilized by the extreme physical exertion. Uphoff recalls, “I would probably have had to give up if I hadn’t had my Contour® blood glucose meter with me.” The test results showed that Uphoff needed to boost his carbohydrate intake, so he had to adjust his diet. He forced himself to eat more so that he would have enough energy for the coming stages. After a few days he had his metabolism under control again and was able to manage even particularly challenging stretches without difficulty – with stable glucose readings between 80 and 120 mg/dl.
The pilgrimage has certainly made its mark on Gerhard Uphoff. Now that he’s home again, in his familiar surroundings, he is still finding it difficult to explain what the trip meant to him. “I need to let it sink in properly first. I’ve been overwhelmed with more impressions than I would normally encounter in years!” But Uphoff is already certain about one thing: “That wasn’t the last time.” In October he plans to travel the 100 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela to Cap Finisterre, the western extremity of mainland Spain, with his partner. And he also has his sights set firmly on the Way of St. James from Barcelona to Pamplona and from Seville to Astorga. “You never forget ’El Camino’!,” he says.
You can read Gerhard Uphoff’s diary of his pilgrimage on the website www.bayerdiabetes.de/jakobsweg (in German only). The site posts week-by-week reports and photos of his travels on foot through northern Spain.
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